Keith Jones

Dick Jerardi is an award winning sports writer as well as a radio/television host and commentator, and is arguably best known for covering the sport of Horse Racing.

Though his work as a journalist at The Philadelphia Daily News, Dick has covered every Triple Crown race since 1987 (he is a five-time winner of theRed Smith Award for Kentucky Derby coverage). Dick Jerardi famously chronicled the remarkable Smarty Jones during the Triple Crown chase of 2004 s the Thoroughbred won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes for trainer John Servis.

Since 2011 Jerardi has been an on-air analyst for the live television broadcasts of The Pennsylvania Derby from Parx Racing, most recently for NBC Spots Philadelphia.

Many fans know of Dick Jerardi’s work from the long running Let’s Go Racing TV program where he works alongside fellow Parx Hall of Fame members Keith Jones and producer Bruce Casella.

Dick also continues to provide color commentary for the live broadcasts of Penn State basketball.


LIFE IS GOOD OUT OF DERBY

By Dick Jerardi

There were just six weeks until the Kentucky Derby when unbeaten Life is Good finished off a tour de force workout last Saturday at Santa Anita Park. When the brilliant colt left the track, he was one more prep race (the Santa Anita Derby) and a few more works away from heading to Kentucky as the obvious Derby favorite.    

And then, back at the barn, it became obvious to trainer Bob Baffert and his team that something was off. The colt took some funny steps. Tests were done and it was determined that there was a small chip in his left hind ankle. Surgery will be performed. It is nothing Life is Good can’t come back from, but the timing could not have been worse.

The colt will need 60 days to recover, so, by the time Life is Good is ready to start training again, the Triple Crown will be nearly over. Add the brilliant colt’s name to that what-if list for horses that could have won the Derby if they had gotten the chance.

The 2021 Derby is now, of course, much more wide open, with the Baffert-trained Concert Tour and the Brad Cox-trained Essential Quality at the head of the class as they get ready for their final prep races.

Baffert said Life is Good will be back later in the year and even promised he could be at his best for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar. We can only hope.

ANOTHER MIGUEL PENALOZA SUCCESS STORY

Miguel Penaloza took over the training of Exogen a few months ago. The 3-year-old filly came up from Florida to Parx. The trainer thought so much of her that he entered her in the $100,000 Cicada Stakes last Saturday at Aqueduct. She was completely overlooked in the field of four, sent off at 22-1. If the race had been 6 furlongs and a few jumps, the filly would have won it.

Exogen closed relentlessly up the rail, passing 4-5 favorite Save and nearly catching 3-1 Just Read It. She lost by ahead.

Penaloza only has 12 horses in his Parx barn, but add stakes-placed Exogen to multiple stakes winner Share the Ride and the trainer has much to look forward to in 2021.

THE PARK STANDINGS

As we approach the end of March, a quarter of the way through the year, some familiar names are atop the Parx trainer and jockey standings.

Jamie Ness, a runaway winner of the trainer’s race in 2020, leads with 23 winners. Scott Lake is second with 14 while Joe Taylor, the 2019 winner, and Lou Linder each have 13. Ness has started 125 horses and a cool 75 of them have finished in the top 3.

Ruben Silvera leads the jockey standings with 32 winners, followed by Frankie Pennington with 26 and last year’s winner Mychel Sanchez has 21.

KENDRICK CARMOUCHE FLYING HIGH IN NEW YORK

Kendrick Carmouche, the Parx Hall of Famer who won 200 or more races each year from 2007-2012, won his first New York jockeys’ title at the shortfall Aqueduct meeting last year. He is a week away from taking his second straight title. Carmouche has been in front virtually all the way at the Aqueduct winter meet that began Dec. 10 and ends March 28. He has 72 winners, seven clear of Eric Cancel.

THE BAFFERT FACTOR

Dick Jerardi

Basketball has LeBron James. Football has Tom Brady. Horse racing has Bob Baffert

The legendary trainer is loaded again with a major talent for the May 1 Kentucky Derby, a race he has already won a record-tying six times. Nobody is going to be surprised if he holds the record alone, with seven, by sundown on the first Saturday of May.

 Life is Good is unbeaten in three starts. Concert Tour is unbeaten in three starts. Life is Good likely will make his final pre-Derby start in the Santa Anita Derby while Concert Tour may go to the Arkansas Derby. If each wins impressively, Baffert will bring as strong a hand to Kentucky as he did in 2015 when he finished first and third in the Derby with American Pharoah and Dortmund.

Baffert was not hard to read that 2015 Derby Week. He never tipped his hand about which horse he liked best, given that they had different owners, but he made it very clear he thought he was going to win it. He did, of course, and American Pharoah kept right on winning until the colt had won the first Triple Crown in 37 years. Later, Baffert admitted he knew all along which horse was better. He just let the horse show it.

Concert Tour is a very nice horse who just gave Baffert his eighth Rebel Stakes win since 2010. Life is Good has superstar potential. The colt does not run; he glides. Another American Pharoah? Another Justify, the 2018 Triple Crown winner? Time will tell.

Baffert obviously has access to horses with great pedigrees, but he also has a program that is designed with the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes in mind. Watch the horses develop race to race, workout to workout so they peak at exactly the right moment. Everything is by design. The results are no accident.

The results now include those two Triple Crowns, the six Derbies, the seven Preakness, and the three Belmont Stakes, a record 16 Triple Crown race wins in all. He even proved last year that he could win the Derby in September with the third string. That was Authentic in the spring behind Nadal and Charlatan. But when those two got injured, Baffert brought Authentic off the bench to win the Derby, nearly win an eighth Preakness and win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Not bad for a backup.

In all, Baffert has trained more than 3,100 winners. His horses have earned $316 million. He has won the Eclipse Award as leading trainer four times (1997, 1998, 1999, 2015) and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.

But it is his Triple Crown race mastery that sets him apart. D. Wayne Lukas showed him the way and then Baffert even improved on the standard Lukas set.

Baffert won his first Derby in 1997, the year after he lost it by a nose with Cavonnier. Then, he won it again in 1998 with Real Quiet and War Emblem in 2002. It was 13 years between War Emblem and American Pharoah, but an older, wiser Baffert began another roll in 2015, winning it again in 2018 with Justify and in 2020 with Authentic. So the man won the Derby three times in six years – twice.

And there is also this. His horses have finished second in eight other Triple Crown races. And, with a bit more racing luck in the years he won two of three, Baffert could actually have won four more Triple Crowns.           Think about all that when the horses are in the post parade for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. You may be considering betting on a horse or horses not trained by Baffert. You might want to reconsider.

BIG RACE WEEKEND

By Dick Jerardi

Parx-based horses were in three major stakes races last Saturday in New York. None won, but several gave good accounts of themselves. And there was a Parx legend in one of those races who demonstrated exactly how to ride a speed horse.

There were also three significant Kentucky Derby preps, with one transcendent performance delivered by a colt trained by Mr. Derby himself, Bob Baffert, a man who could very well have a record seventh Derby win by sundown on May 1.

The Danny Velazquez owned and trained Laobanonaprayer tried open company in the Busher Invitational at Aqueduct after two dominating New York bred stakes wins last fall. The 3-year-old filly was kind of stuck behind horses much of the trip in the Busher and ran on respectably to finish fourth when finally clear. After missing some training time at Parx, she figures to do much better in her next start whether in open company or back with NY breds.

Share the Ride, trained by Miguel Penaloza, has been an amazing success story since being claimed last July for $16,000. The 6-year-old has won two graded stakes and placed in two more. Coming back in just two weeks in The Tom Fool Handicap, Share the Ride ran his first poor race on dirt for owner Ramirez Silvino, finishing last of six. It was Parx alum Kendrick Carmouche, atop the jockey standings at Aqueduct, who ended up in the winner’s circle.

There were two-speed horses in the race, Chateau and Happy Farm. After 50 yards, there was only one-speed horse as Carmouche got Chateau to fly out of the gate, leaving Happy Farm and the others in his wake, loose on the lead and long gone, a classic demonstration of how to take advantage of a horse’s natural speed.

Lake Avenue was a runaway winner of The Heavenly Prize Invitational, but Portal Creek, trained by Carlos Guererro, set a strong pace before finishing second. The Michael Moore-trained Flashndynamite was a solid third. Those two mares have combined to win 20 races and more than $500,000

Jerome winner Capo Kane was swimming in deep water for trainer Harry Wyner when he was sent off at 11-1 in The Gotham. Chad Brown had the favorite, Baffert the second choice.

Capo Kane was never really a factor, checking in sixth.

That result almost certainly takes him off the Derby trail, but there are still nice 3-year-old races out there for the colt to win.

Weyburn, a 46-1 shot, won a stretch-long duel with 5-1 Crowded Trade to win the Gotham and get a solid 95 Beyer Speed Figure.

The Tampa Bay Derby was won by unbeaten 15-1 shot Helium in his first try on dirt after two wins on the Tapeta at Woodbine last fall. His 84 Beyer Speed Figure strongly suggests this colt by grass star Irononicus is no threat to win the Derby.

The performance of the day and the year so far came in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

Life Is Good was 1-5 in his Del Mar debut last November. The colt won by 9 ½ lengths. The son of Into Mischief was 1-5 again when he won Sham Stakes on Jan. 2. The margin was just three-quarters of a length, but that was an illusion as jockey Mike Smith stopped riding the colt in the final few hundred yards.

There was nothing illusional about Life Is Good in the San Felipe. Sent off at 1-2 against a field that included a graded stakes winner, two graded stakes-placed horses, and an impressive winner of a very fast maiden race, Life Is Good stamped himself as the Derby favorite in a race he dominated from start to finish.

Life Is Good and stablemate Medina Spirit was separated by just three-quarters of a length in the Sham. In the San Felipe, Medina Spirit was again second, but this time, the margin was 8 lengths as Life Is Good was simply brilliant.

How brilliant? Life Is Good got a 107 Beyer Figure, a number that routinely wins the Derby. So, yes, Baffert has another major star. How good is to be determined but Life Is Good has already produced a Beyer series of 91, 101, 107 so who knows just how good this colt might be.

THE FLORIDA MYSTERY

By Dick Jerardi

If something happens once, perhaps it’s a coincidence. If it happens twice, you start to wonder. If it happens three times, it starts to become a pattern.

It is no secret that Parx-based horses have headed out from the track to win major stakes in the last three years – in 2018 Jaywalk won the Frizette and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies while Maximus Mischief won the Remsen Stakes. In 2019, Spun to Run won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. In 2020, Vequist won the Spinaway and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

When 2019 began, Maximus Mischief and Jaywalk were among the favorites for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks respectively. When 2020 began, Spun to Run was aiming for the Pegasus World Cup. When 2021 started, Vequist’s goal was the Kentucky Oaks.

All four horses were sent to South Florida so they would not miss any training time due to weather in the northeast _ Jaywalk, Spun to Run and Vequist based at Palm Meadows Training Center, Maximus Mischief at Gulfstream Park.

Jaywalk went 4-for-5 in 2018, but just 1-for-6 in 2019 before being retired. Maximus Mischief was 3-for-3 in 2018, but raced just once in 2019, a dull third, before being injured and retired to stud. Spun to Run appeared poised to run in and win some of the best races in the country, but, after sustaining an injury, never ran in 2020 and was retired. Now, Vequist, brilliant in 2020, with two wins and two seconds in four starts, began her 3-old season last Saturday as the 1-2 favorite against an undistinguished field in the Grade II Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. After getting great position early under champion jockey Irad Ortiz, Vequist could not keep up on the turn and eventually finished ninth, beaten by 26 lengths as a 52-1 shot won the race.

If Ortiz had asked Vequist in the stretch, she probably could have finished closer. But she was never going to come closer to winning and the jockey eased her up late to protect her.

So what is going on here?

The three trainers of the four horses are among the very best at Parx – John Servis (Jaywalk), Carlos Guerrero (Spun to Run), and Butch Reid (Maximus Mischief, Vequist). They did not forget how to train horses because they were in Florida. Servis, of course, trained Cathryn Sophia in Florida to win the 2016 Kentucky Oaks and famously trained Smarty Jones in Arkansas before the Parx legend won the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

“She came back and scoped a little dirty and had some mucus and stuff like that,’’ Reid said the morning after Vequist’s inexplicable defeat.

“You’ll get a lot down here in South Florida, but other than that she was sound, jogging around good this morning. We’re going to kind of give her a mulligan on that one. I appreciate that Irad didn’t really beat her up the last part of it. He could have made her fifth, beaten 5 (lengths), but that doesn’t prove anything.

“That’s why we have first races. We were looking for much better than that obviously. The horse is still sound. We’re happy with her. We’ll fall back with her, regroup, and go on the next.’’

Next is to be determined, but, for now, the goal remains the April 30 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Perhaps, a decision will be made to get Vequist out of the Florida heat to Keeneland where she won her Breeders’ Cup race. She could then run in the April 3 Ashland at Keeneland where, obviously, a much-improved performance would be needed. And if she is back to the old Vequist, the Oaks will be just 27 days and a short van ride away.

It’s become an accepted fact that training on the Parx surface gets horses incredibly fit, one of the reasons so many have been so successful out of town in recent years. Is it the old what happens at Parx only works if the horse stays at Parx?

Don’t know the answer, but, at least, it is a question that needs to be asked.

MIGUEL PENALOZA WINS BIG ONE AT LAUREL

By Dick Jerardi

Like so many others in the sport, Parx trainer Miguel Penaloza had a rough 2020. After his stable had 37 wins and earned $1,261,787 in 2019, it was just nine wins last year.

Last Saturday, however, that was Penaloza in the winner’s circle at Laurel Park after 6-year-old Share the Ride won the Grade III $250,000 General George Stakes impressively.

“That was pretty awesome,’’ the trainer said.

Owner Silvino Ramirez had been watching Share the Ride for a while hoping that someday the horse would be entered in a claiming race. That day was July 5, 2020, at Monmouth Park. The claiming price was $16,000. Ramirez pounced and Share the Ride, who has been training at Parx with Penaloza, has gone on to win the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth, finish second in the Grade III Bold Ruler at Belmont, win the Grade III Fall Highweight at Aqueduct, finishing second in the Fire Plug at Laurel and third in the Grade III Toboggan at Aqueduct.

Not bad for a $16,000 claim. Penaloza has 12 horses in his barn at the moment, but there is no doubt about the star. That would be Share the Ride. The horse has won nearly $388,000 since the claim.

“Basically, it’s teamwork with the owner,’’ Penaloza said.

They never really thought Share the Ride would be in a claiming race, but when he was, they were ready. The rest is history.

“We always remember that,’’ Penaloza said.

Some of Penaloza’s other good horses in his career include Wildcat Combat and Crazy Daisy. Those horses won a combined 15 races and more than $500,000 in their careers, the bulk of their accomplishments coming with Penaloza as the trainer.

“I’ve been lucky,’’ Penaloza said. “I’ve had a couple of horses, we’ve made it from claiming to stakes. But this one is special.’’

That would be Share the Ride who has taken his owner and trainer on quite a ride over the last seven months.

“This horse is different,’’ Penaloza said. “It feels really good. We’re always thinking positively. The owners always believe in me,’’

Which is how you get from a down year to a $16,000 claim that has done nothing but run great ever since.

 

 

SENATOR TOMMY TOMLINSON CONFIDENT RACE HORSE DEVELOPMENT FUND IS SAFE

By Dick Jerardi

State Senator Tommy Tomlinson has been in the Pennsylvania legislature for 30 years, first in the House of Representatives and now serving his seventh term in the Senate, representing Bucks County. He knows precisely how the government works and certainly understands Harrisburg.

When Gov. Wolf announced his budget a few weeks ago, he revealed a plan to raid the Race Horse Development Fund, almost exactly the same proposal he made the year before. It went nowhere then and Tomlinson is very confident it is going nowhere now

“We were here a year ago,’’ Tomlinson said when I interviewed him for our “Let’s Go Racing’’ television show. “He did do this last year. We told him he couldn’t do it last year. We didn’t let him do it last year. We changed the law in 2017. We made it impossible. This money is in a trust fund. It’s for the horsemen. It’s $204 million.’’

The governor has proposed to take $199 million from the fund to use for college scholarships in the state system, certainly a noble cause.

But those of us with long memories remember that when Act 71 became law in the summer of 2004, it was after a long process spearheaded by the racing industry that had been badly hurt by surrounding states with alternative gaming that was supplementing the purses at those race tracks.

The state legislature and then Gov. Rendell made a decision that because of the competition, slot machines, with a percentage of the winnings reserved for the horse racing industry, should be legalized in the commonwealth. It has been a big success for horse owners, trainers, breeders and everybody in the business. It spurred breeding in the state. It also has been a huge windfall for casino owners and the commonwealth as well as a very good thing for property owners who have seen their taxes reduced because of a rebate designated to help them.

The law has worked exactly as designed so why would anybody want to change it?

Tomlinson knows the history because he has lived it. Many others do not know the history.

“This money has impacted all over the state,’’ he said. “It’s preserving over 100,000 acres of open space. It keeps farms going. It keeps agriculture going. It’s not like somebody is just getting this money. You have to race for it, you have to earn it, you have to win it. You have to pay your grooms, you have to pay your trainers, you have to pay for feed. This money’s just not sitting there stagnant.’’

No, it is not. In fact, it is estimated that the horse racing industry creates an annual economic activity of $1.6 billion in Pennsylvania when you consider every aspect of it.

“There are 20,000 employees (in the state connected with horse racing),’’ he said. “It’s really money well spent…Because Parx has been here almost my whole life, I want to see this race track stay here. The horsemen live in my community, work in this area. This has a lot of economic impact on my community. So it was important for me to make sure that we preserve horse racing as we developed more gambling to compete with Atlantic City. This money is part of the original deal. They’re trying to break the original deal. We’re not going to let them do it.’’

Tomlinson has talked to his colleagues in Harrisburg. He has a good sense of what they are thinking.

“It was a nonstarter last year; it’s a nonstarter this year,’’ Tomlinson said. “I’m going to take it as a constructive statement that we need more help for the state system, we need more money for the state system. But you don’t take money from one pot that has nothing to do with that and put it in another pot where it’s not really going to fix the structural problem that they have.’’

Obviously, losing the fund would be a disaster for horse racing in the state. Owners and breeders who have invested so much for so long would see the value of their investments decrease dramatically. As Tomlinson said, that would not be fair nor would it make economic sense. And, like he made very clear in the interview, he sees no way it’s going to happen.

CAPO KANE THIRD IN THE WITHERS AFTER SETTING THE PACE

By Dick Jerardi

There are several ways to look at Capo Kane’s third-place finish in Saturday’s Grade III Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.

The 3-year-old colt seized the lead at the start, still held a comfortable lead in the stretch and then tired in the final 200 yards. While that is certainly true, it is also true that the three horses chasing Capo Kane finished last, next to last, and next to next to last.

It was Parx-based 66-1 Mr. Doda who applied early pressure to Capo Kane. It was Mr. Doda who also finished a bit more than 66 lengths behind at the finish of the mile and an eighth race.

Risk-Taking from the powerful Chad Brown won the race convincingly, but perhaps the son of top stallion Medaglia d’Oro got the winning trip on that surface that day.

Capo Kane threw down solid quarter miles of :24.02, :24.69, 24.46 and 25.30 before that final eighth that he ran in just :14.50.

Perhaps, the 9 furlongs is a bit beyond Capo Kane’s scope. Also possible that missing three days of training because of snow removal at Parx was an issue. However, it is also true that the winner, stabled at Belmont Park, also missed two days of training that week.

“I got away with some nice fractions,’’ Capo Kane’s trainer Harry Wyner said. “He just got a little tired the last 70 yards. I thought he ran a great race.’’

Hey, they paid $26,000 for a horse that has won stakes and is now graded stakes placed. Not a bad deal.

Capo Kane got an 84 Beyer figure when he won The Jerome, an 81 for his third in The Withers.

Next up for Capo Kane is the March 6 Gotham Stakes, also at Aqueduct. That is a one-turn mile with 50 Kentucky Derby points on the line, more than enough to get the winner a place in the Derby starting gate, should the connections want to go.

The Derby, Wyner said, remains the goal. The trainer does not think The Withers distance was the issue.

“I think it was the track,’’ he said. “The track was playing to closers and it was a little heavy…It was the first time going a mile and an eighth. He missed a couple of days of training.’’

It generally is not a straight line from the Derby Dream to the Derby. The eventual winners do not all show up unbeaten.

“We’re still alive,’’ Wyner said. “The best horses get beat. Secretariat got beat.’’

Capo Kane has now raced four times, with two wins, a second, a third and earnings of $144,500, more than five times his purchase price.

So, a great deal whether the colt is good enough for Derby or not. We will know more about that part in a month.

VEQUIST CROWNED CHAMPION 2-YEAR-OLD FILLY

By Dick Jerardi

In the end, the vote was not close. Vequist got 212 votes for champion 2-year-old filly; turf star Aunt Pearl got 24.

Thus, a Parx-based horse has been named champion 2-year-old filly for the second time in three years. First, it was Jaywalk who got her start at Parx with trainer John Servis. Now, it’s Vequist who got her start at Parx for trainer Butch Reid.

The championship was a career highlight for Reid. It’s something he always hoped for, but could not be sure he would ever get.

“It was a box we weren’t sure we were ever going to check,’’ Reid said. “It’s really cool to have one that you know is the best at what she does. To be somehow involved with that is really outstanding.’’

Butch and his wife Ginny have been a great team at the barn for decades. That they are getting such a wonderful payoff only seems fair.

It almost didn’t happen. Vequist was in a weanling sale in November 2018, but was pulled before the sale. She was offered at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale by owner/breeder Tom McGrath’s Swilcan Stable, with a reserve of $120,000.

“Vequist went through the (Yearling) sale, but didn’t draw any interest,’’ Reid said. “Sixty people looked at her and not one person vetted her. There was something they didn’t like about her.’’

When she first ran last year, there was so much to like about her that top owners Gary Barber and Adam Wachtel contacted McGrath to buy a piece. A deal was done. Vequist won the Grade I Spinaway, finished second in the Grade I Frizette and won the Grade I BC Juvenile Fillies, clinching the championship.

Vequist’s dam Vero Amore has since given birth to two more fillies. The 2-year-old will be heading Reid’s way when the weather breaks. And the yearling should be on her way next year.

After winning the BC race at Keeneland on Nov. 6, Vequist was sent to Florida for a bit of rest. She has been back in training at Palm Meadows Training Center for several weeks. Last Saturday, she had her third breeze since returning, 5 furlongs in 1:00.95. She will have three more works before her first race of 2021.

That race to start her 3-year-old campaign is planned for the Davona Dale on Feb. 27 at Gulfstream Park, a one-turn mile. Then, the plan is for one more race prior to the Kentucky Oaks on April 30, the day before the Kentucky Derby.

“It’s a good place to come back,’’ Reid said.

Vequist, the trainer said, “looks fantastic. She’s eating everything in sight. The weather is so good. She’s put on weight. Her body has really matured even since last year. I’m really excited with how she’s doing right now.’’

DANNY LIMONGELLI, OWNER OF BANJO PICKER, PASSES AWAY AT 74

By Dick Jerardi

Danny Limongelli’s last winner, Quiet Please, entered the Parx winner’s circle shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 18. The longtime horse owner, with 450 wins and nearly $9 million in earnings over a career that spanned 20 years, passed away later that afternoon at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.

His longtime trainer Steve Krebs, fellow owner Joe Besecker and his family in a poignant obituary remembered a man who would do anything for anybody.

After serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Army – F Troop, 17th Cavalry, 196th Brigade – Limongelli returned to the Wilkes-Barre area to his family and one of his other loves – cars.

Limongelli started Jo-Dan Motors with his father in 1971. Later, he was heavily involved in warranty companies. Even later, he was able to fulfill his dream by opening Jo-Dan Buick GMC in Moosic, Pa., the franchise dealership he had always wanted.

He owned classic cars, including his favorite, a 1958 Impala. According to his obituary, he loved to attend car shows, spend time on the family farm and, of course, hang out at the track with his friends, his family and his horses.

It was at what was then called Philadelphia Park on Aug, 21, 2004 that Krebs and Limongelli claimed Banjo Picker for $15,000.

“We just claimed him because he was a Pa. Bred,’’ Krebs said, “We figured maybe we could win (a first-level allowance) with him.’’

All Banjo Picker did after the claim was run 40 times, with 15 wins, five seconds, six thirds and earnings of more than $600,000. All but eight of those starts came at the track now known as Parx, with the final race on Nov. 24, 2009.

Tara Hemmings rode Banjo Picker in each of his starts for Limongelli, including a memorable win in the Dec. 18, 2005 Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct when the horse was a cool 47-1. Banjo Picker also won four Pa. bred stakes at Parx – the Lyman, Devil’s Honor, Power By Far and Le Grand Pos.

“He just kept getting better and better,’’ Krebs said, “He just kept right on going.’’

Limongelli had so many friends because he was so friendly,

“He loved all the action,’’ Krebs said.

Krebs and Limongelli had Lothar who won six in a row in 2002. That was one of the first horses they had together. Soon, there were 20 of the owner’s horses in the barn.

“Danny was a trainer’s dream,’’ Krebs said. “Danny was a family man first. He always talked about his family. In fact, he named several horses after all his grandkids.’’

There was Pop-Pop’s Jimmy and Nicky Blue Eyes among others.

“His horses and their well-being came first,’’ Krebs said.

Besecker had known Limongelli for five or six years, but only met him two years ago.

“Just a prince of a man,’’ Besecker said.

When Joe found out Danny was a car dealer, they talked cars. And soon enough, Danny was giving Joe a deal on a pickup that ended that night with them at dinner.

Limongelli had horses at Laurel, Penn National and Parx.

“He liked to go to Parx,’’ Besecker said. “He was a guy who supported everyday racing. He was very knowledgeable. He was one of us, a really good person; looked out for other people in the business. I know he helped out backside people. He was the kind of guy that would slide a hundred to the waitress.’’

When Danny came to the track, he often came with his friends and family.

“He made it fun for everybody,’’ Besecker said. “He usually had his gang with him. And they were a colorful gang. He loved the game.’’

VEQUIST AN ECLIPSE AWARD FINALIST

By Dick Jerardi

Vequist, who began her career at Parx and trained there before she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland, was announced on Jan. 16 as a finalist for the 2-year-old filly Eclipse Award. The other finalists are Dayoutoftheoffice and Aunt Pearl. Vequist finished second to Dayoutoftheoffice in the Frizette before turning the tables in the Breeders’ Cup. Aunt Pearl waa dominant on the grass and won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

The winners in all the categories will be announced Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. on TVG. Vequist, trained by Butch Reid, is a huge favorite to win the award. There was a similar situation two years ago when the John Servis-trained Jaywalk won the BC Juvenile Fillies and the brilliant, unbeaten Newspaperofrecord won the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf. Each was a finalist. The voting was not close. Jaywalk got 214 votes; Newspaperofrecord just 31.

There were 249 eligible voters this year. A total of 238 returned their ballots.

The Horse of the Year finalists are: Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Authentic, Improbable and Monomoy Girl. Authentic is a lock to win it. The top three on my ballot were Authentic, Improbable and Swiss Skydiver. Nothing against Monomoy Girl, but she raced just four times. Swiss Skydiver had a throwback campaign that I thought was more impressive.

By the way, in case you didn’t know, the Eclipse Awards are named for Eclipse, a 17th Century English horse that did not start racing until age 5. The horse, foaled April 1, 1764 and named after the Solar Eclipse, raced 18 times and won them all.

CARMOUCHE STAYS HOT

Parx Hall of Famer Kendrick Carmouche won his first Grade I and first New York meet in early December. He was hot when the fall Aqueduct meet ended. He is even hotter now that the Aqueduct winter meet is in full swing.

Carmouche, with 38 wins through Jan. 18, is 16 clear of second-place Eric Cancel. Last Saturday, he won four, three for trainer Todd Pletcher. Those three included the $100,000 Ladies Handicap on Thankful. The winter meet ends March 28.

It’s very early in the year obviously, but Carmouche is second nationally to Joel Rosario in earnings and second to Irad Ortiz, Jr., in wins.

FINAL 2020 PARX STANDINGS

Mychel Sanchez won his first Parx jockeys’ title in 2019 when he tied with Frankie Pennington. Sanchez won it outright in 2020 with 131 wins. Ruben Silvera finished second with 115.

Jamie Ness ran away with the trainers’ title. He had 109 wins to second-place Joe Taylor’s 50.

Jagger Inc., one of Ness’s main owners, won the owners’ title with 42 winners. Top North Racing was second with 24.